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Archive for the ‘1956’ Category

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced by Edmund Grainer
Screenplay by Lesser Samuels
Based on the novel by Robert Hardy Andrews
Music by Leith Stevens
Cinematography: William E. Snyder
Film Editor: Harry Marker

Cast: Virginia Mayo (Ann Merry Alaine), Robert Stack (Owen Pentecost), Ruth Roman (Boston Grant), Alex Nicol (Captain Stephen Kirby), Raymond Burr (Jumbo Means), Leo Gordon (Zeff Masterson), Regis Toomey (Father Murphy), Carleton Young (Colonel Gibson)

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Director Jacques Tourneur is well known for his horror (Cat People) and noir (Out Of The Past) pictures, and he should be. It’s a shame his Westerns — a handful of very good, and very unique, pictures from the 40s and 50s — don’t get the same recognition. Great Day In The Morning (1956) was Tourneur’s last Western feature (he did some cowboy stuff for TV), and it’s often overlooked or shrugged off. It’s well worth seeking out, especially now that we can see it in all its Technicolor and Superscope glory on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

Owen Pentecost (Robert Stack) arrives in Denver from his home in North Carolina, right before the start of the Civil War. He finds the place divided between those sympathetic to the North or the South. He’s a self-centered opportunist (about the nicest thing you could say about him), hoping to profit from the gold being discovered there and the unrest created by the impending war. Owen quickly establishes himself, drawing the ire of the town boss (Raymond Burr), getting caught up in all the pre-war bickering and fighting, and catching the eye of both a businesswoman (Virginia Mayo) and saloon girl (Ruth Roman). He’s always willing to play one side against the other for his own benefit.

And that’s where the trouble comes in. The male lead isn’t very likable, and it’d be easy to transfer that opinion to the film itself. But you’d be overlooking a lot of good stuff. First, there’s the incredible look Tourneur gives all his films. Pools of light in deep shadows are used well to direct our eye and highlight certain characters or bits of action. Cinematographer William E. Snyder does some great work here.

The cast of Great Day In The Morning is terrific, from the villains like Raymond Burr and Leo G. Gordon to the ladies, Virginia Mayo and Ruth Roman. Roman is especially good. Robert Stack is fine as Pentecost, and he’s to be commended for playing the character as the creep that he is. Westerns, especially the ones from the 1950s, get a lot of mileage out of the theme of redemption. It’s the backbone of many of the genre’s finest films. Here, we fully expect Pentecost to see the error of his ways, have a change of heart and make amends before the final fade. But with almost every genre convention Tourneur faces, his pictures seem to zig where other films zag — it’s very evident in his first Western, Canyon Passage (1946). Being that Tourneur is at the wheel on Great Day In The Morning, we shouldn’t be surprised when Pentecost’s redemption doesn’t happen the way it usually does.

Warner Archive has been bringing out 50s SuperScope movies on Blu-Ray lately, such as John Sturges’ Underwater! from 1955, and they’re doing a tremendous job with them. You hear a lot about how the process was grainy and soft, but you’d never think that after look at these Blu-Rays. They’re beautiful. It’s great to see them looking like this, and I’d certainly welcome some more.

A lot of people simply don’t like Great Day In The Morning. But it’s a Jacques Tourneur movie that’s often overlooked, and for that reason, along with its superb presentation on Blu-Ray, I recommend it highly.

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Came upon this the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

The Morningside Theatre in New York City has quite a lineup on Saturday, April 16, 1959. First, there was Tim Holt in The Monster That Challenged The World (1957), then Audie Murphy in Jack Arnold’s No Name On The Bullet (1959) and finally Running Target from 1956, starring Doris Dowling, Arthur Franz and Myron Healey. Tossed into the mix were a few cartoons and Marshall Reed in a chapter of the Columbia serial Riding With Buffalo Bill (1954), produced by Sam Katzman.

Of course, the stuff coming up after it — William Castle’s The Tingler (1959), The Warrior And The Slave Girl (1958) and Whip Wilson, Fuzzy Knight and Phyllis Coates in Monogram’s Canyon Riders (1951) — sounds pretty good, too.

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Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Virginia Mayo, Robert Stack, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Raymond Burr, Leo Gordon, Regis Toomey

Jacques Tourneur’s post-Civil War picture Great Day In The Morning (1956) is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive in November. Whether it’s morning or not depends on where you are in the world, but another Tourneur Western in high-definition makes for a great day indeed! The Superscope, Technicolor cinematography by William Snyder is incredible. This somewhat overlooked picture comes highly recommended.

This followed Tourneur’s better-known Westerns Stranger On Horseback and Wichita, both with Joel McCrea and both released in 1955. It’d be great to see those get a Blu-Ray release, too!

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RIP, Jan Merlin.

Jan Merlin
April 3, 1925 – September 20, 2019

Heard over the weekend (thanks, Bert) that the character actor Jan Merlin has passed away at 94.

After serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, he started acting in summer stock. His Broadway debut came with Mister Roberts.

Merlin had a long, busy career in movies and TV. He was a regular on Tom Corbett, Space Cadett, for one, and he appeared on everything from Perry Mason to Laramie to Mannix to The A-Team. In features, he did stuff like A Day Of Fury (1956, above with Dale Robertson), Hell Bent For Leather (1960) and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967). He was usually a bad guy — and he was really good at it.

Merlin started to write, knocking out several novels and winning a Daytime Emmy as a writer for Another World. Luckily, he was interviewed a number of times over the years, preserving his decades of experience around Hollywood.

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Nancy Gates
(February 1, 1926 – March 24, 2019)

Nancy Gates has passed away at 93. She was from Dallas, signed with RKO at just 15, and made some really good movies before retiring in 1969 to concentrate on her family.

She was particularly strong in Westerns such as Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Stranger On Horseback (1955), The Brass Legend (1956), The Rawhide Trail (1958), The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) and Comanche Station (1960). Her other pictures include Hitler’s Children (1943), At Sword’s Point (1952), Suddenly (1954), World Without End (1956) and Some Came Running (1958). She was busy on TV, too, with everything from Maverick and Wagon Train to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason.

Around here, we’ll probably always remember her as Mrs. Lowe in Comanche Station. She’s really terrific in that one.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Harry Carey, Jr., Hank Worden

John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) might be the finest film ever made, it’s almost certainly the greatest Western ever made, and it’s easily John Wayne’s best performance. Of course, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Here’s a rare change to see it on film, in a theater. Sorry for the short notice.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas Pacific Palisades
April 9 & 10, 7 PM
Click the lobby card for details.

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That’s Wright King to the right, appropriately enough.

Wright King
(January 11, 1923 – November 25, 2018)

Character actor Wright King passed away last month at 95.

King didn’t make a lot of features, but he’s in some good stuff: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, he was in the original Broadway production, too), Friendly Persuasion (1956), Stagecoach To Fury (1956), Hot Rod Rumble (1957), The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) and Planet Of The Apes (1968), to name a few.

On TV, he was on tons of stuff, including Wanted Dead Or Alive, Twilight Zone, The Gabby Hayes Show, Johnny Jupiter, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Father Knows Best, The Fugitive and Mannix.

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